Seniority is central in many private and public sector union contracts in the United States. What are the advantages and disadvantages to both employers and employees in using seniority to allocate employment opportunities? What are the disadvantages? How can a balance be struck between the interests of employers and employees with respect to seniority issues?
Student answers will vary. Example: Seniority is an objective measurement. When seniority is the sole factor in an employment decision, there is no debate. Seniority can also be used as a determining factor when a group of employees is minimally qualified or as a secondary factor when employees are equally qualified for a position. The disadvantage to the latter two is the ambiguous nature of “minimally qualified” and “equally qualified.” Seniority is more likely to be the sole factor in lay offs than for promotions or transfers. Perhaps seniority should be used as a tie breaker when it would be difficult to make a decision otherwise. If seniority is used as a factor during a layoff or promotion opportunity, the company may be at a disadvantage if a lower-paid, better qualified worker has less seniority than a higher-paid, less qualified or less productive worker. It is also unfair to that better qualified worker. Perhaps qualifications should be looked at first, with seniority used if qualifications are very close.
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